Monday, October 24, 2016

The Rugged Maniac 2016 - Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

For a little over 10 years now, I’ve run road races, done cycling events and completed many triathlons. I’ve done one trail run, which I enjoyed. When I started teaching boot camp three years ago, I was always on the lookout for ways to get stronger and ways to change things up. Then I got hooked on watching American Ninja Warrior and the Spartan race competitions. I thought it looked like fun.

With two kids in college, my race schedule has been scaled back. I still try to do some local races, but traveling for a race is challenging. So, when I saw that the Rugged Maniac obstacle race was coming to the Austin area, I checked into it. I posted on Facebook to see if I had any crazy friends that might want to do it with me because I just didn’t think doing it alone would be any fun. I got a few bites, but when Jerri, one of my boot camp chicks, said she was in, I knew it would happen. We signed up, convinced another one to sign up and got another friend to sign up as well.

I checked out the website to see what the obstacles would be like and in the few weeks before race day, Jerri and I met to do some additional training, turning neighborhood playgrounds into makeshift obstacle courses, practicing on monkey bars, working battle ropes and even rock climbing. We wanted to be able to give the course our best shot.

Things come up and by race day, it was just Jerri and I who would be racing. Dalton happened to be coming home from college the weekend of the race and my friend from out-of-town offered to transfer her registration to Dalton. It’s right up his ally, so I asked him if he would be interested. He was in.

The race location is about an hour from our house. We had the second wave of the morning, so we left the house pretty early. My parents had decided they wanted to see what it was all about and joined us for the trip to the race site.

A “cold front” had blown in Thursday, so this morning’s temperature was in the low 50s. I knew we would get wet and I would get cold, so I went to Goodwill on Friday and bought some tights, a tank and a long sleeve Body Glove top to wear.

When we got to the race site, we got checked in, got the other registration transferred into Dalton’s name, found Jerri and her family and made sure we were ready to go. We noticed that you had to complete an obstacle before the race even started. At marathons, they break you up into corals that are separated by ropes. Here, each wave got into a staging area before their wave went off, but you had to climb a 4-foot wall to get into the staging area. Off we went, jumping over the wall and feeling excited.

I didn’t think Dalton would really stay with us and I was right. Before we even got to the first obstacle he was ahead of us and it wasn’t long before I lost sight of him. I found out later that he finished 2nd or 3rd in our wave. And he is “out of shape” from not playing soccer all of the time and didn’t even train.

Anyway, Jerri and I were there to do the race together. We approached the first obstacle – the Shoe Catcher. This obstacle was meant to get you wet and muddy right from the beginning. The property the race was on had a small tank (or pond – depending on where you are from) and we had to run/walk through the edge of it. When I saw the obstacle online, I thought we would be at least waist deep in the water, but it was more like shin deep. The mud was slippery, but Jerri and I managed to get through without falling. After that, we started running toward the next obstacle. At the beginning of the course, the obstacles were fairly spread out.

The next obstacle was Jacob’s Ladder (climbing over an a-frame structure) and then straight to the Quad Burner (up and over several mud hills). A little while later we had to climb over the Barricades (about a 5-foot wall with a roller on top). My trick was to jump up high enough to lay my stomach on the roller to keep it from moving while I swung my legs over, but there were also people that would hold it still for the next person after they got over. Next up was the Trenches – several trenches dug into the ground. They started out fairly narrow and got wider toward the end. There wasn’t much room in between them to get a running start, so it was all jumping.

After we rounded another corner, we came upon the Tipping Point (basically see-saws that you had to run up and over). We went over one and then went through the Ninja Escape. If you’ve ever watched American Ninja Warrior, these are the starting obstacles for many of the courses - slanted wood that you had to jump to without hitting the ground. Only our obstacles were fairly close together. It was still fun to see how it worked. Then we had to go over another see-saw.

After that we saw my family waiting by the next obstacle – The Gauntlet. For this one, you had to run across a floating pad while big oblong swinging bags tried to knock you off. I lost my balance at one point, but only fell to my knees. I got back up and made it to the other side. Then it was up and over another mud hill.

Jerri and I had gotten kind of warm at this point and thought about ditching our long sleeve tops, but I’m glad we didn’t. The next obstacle was the Head Scratcher where you have to crawl through water and mud underneath barbed wire. It was real barbed wire, so you definitely had to stay low, but it wasn’t as low as I expected. However, the water was ICE COLD. Those of you that know me know how much I love cold water (note the sarcasm). This was the thing that I was looking forward to the least. When I hit that water, I just crawled as fast as I could to the other side. Luckily, with a little bit of running, it didn’t take long to warm back up.

Next up were a couple of obstacles with cargo nets. The first was another a-frame type structure with a cargo net over it. That one was easy to do. The Blobstacle wasn’t as easy. Think of a round inflatable with a cargo net tightly over it. You couldn’t really get the cargo net away from the inflatable, so you couldn’t get your feet on it. This one was all about the arms. I just pulled myself really hard and got to the top. Going down the other side was easy.

Next we had to go under netting. I think the idea was to crawl under it, but we arrived at the same time as a group of about 4 other people. The person in front was walking and lifting the net up and we just formed a line and walked behind her. The tricky part was keeping your footing in the mud, but we managed to do just fine.

The next obstacle was called Bang The Gong. From the website, it looked like we would be jumping off a mini trampoline to try to hit a gong and then would land in water. Well, there was no mini trampoline. You had to get a running start and use your leg strength to jump up and hit the gong. There were gongs of different heights as well. I grazed mine and then landed in water that was deeper than I anticipated. At least it was a little warmer by now.

At Pack Mule, we had to pick up a sand bag and carry it in a loop to get it back to the start. The website says they weight 25 pounds. I told Jerri we should have grabbed two!

Next up was the Napoleon Complex – an 8-foot wall you had to climb over. On the wall there were two 2x4s running horizontal. One was down low for your feet to step on and one was up high to grab with your hand. Again, most people were in groups and were pushing each other up or pulling each other over. With Jerri and I being just two, that wasn’t going to work for us. I wanted us to get over this without help. So, I just hoisted my leg up to the high one and used a combo of leg and arm strength to get high enough to put my other hand over the top. From there, I had it. Jerri did the same thing. Proud moment for us!

Next up were more crawling obstacles. Jerri told me she was somewhat claustrophobic, so we decided to go through the same tunnel. Turns out it wasn’t so bad. From one end of the tunnel to the other, you could see the light. And, you didn’t have to crawl. You just had to hunch over a lot. Then it was down a steel tunnel (where we did have to go on our belly) into another mud pit and under more barbed wire and then UP a tunnel on the other side. Mud on a metal tunnel means slippery. Lucky for us, there was a rope running down the tunnel that you could use to help pull yourself up. We both emerged from our tunnels at the same time. I hope the photographer there got a good picture of us.

Next up was climbing up and over a 15-foot ladder wall. Climbing is easy for me. It’s the floating water obstacles that get me. Which is funny since I do so much yoga and love to do yoga on the stand up paddle board. However, for yoga (even on the SUP) I’m not moving, just balancing. I tried to decide how to tackle the Frog Hop obstacle. Go fast and hope I make it or try to land in the middle of each square, get my balance and then do the next. I decide to go slow and that was the wrong decision. I ended up in the water on this one.

And then we got to the Ringer. Jerri and I both knew going in that this one would be the one to give us issues and it was. We had practiced on monkey bars, but monkey bars don’t move and monkey bars aren’t muddy. When we got there, my family was there to watch. Even Dalton was there as he had finished quickly. He told me the same thing you hear on ANW – keep the arms in an “L” – meaning don’t let the arms straighten out all the way. I had hoped to at least make it half way, but that didn’t happen. I slipped right off those suckers and into the water. Jerri was right behind me. At least now we know what to practice for next time!. Yes, I did say next time.

The next obstacle was fun for me. I grew up with a trampoline and still love to jump on them, even still doing back flips. The next obstacle had you jumping on a trampoline as high as you could up a wall to grab the cargo net and climb over the top. That one was fun.

And then we got to the one I was looking forward to. Leaping over fire. I’ve seen people’s pictures and always thought it would be cool to have a picture like that. The only thing was that I didn’t see one of the professional photographers there to take a picture. My family had moved over and had phones and cameras, but they couldn’t get really close. I like how it turned out.

And just like that we were to the last few obstacles, which were connected. We had to run up a warped wall (just like on ANW, but with mud), climb across another cargo net and then slide down a water slide. They had volunteers at the top of the wall to grab your arms and help pull you up. Since I wasn’t sure I could get up by myself, I lined up, made eye-contact with a guy at the top and said, “I’m coming to you.”. I took off running, grabbed his hands and just like that I was over. My mom tried to get a video, but it didn’t turn out too well. I’m curious now as to how far I actually got on my own and whether I could have done it without help. Maybe next year I’ll find out.

I waited for Jerri to follow, we climbed across the final cargo net together and when her family and mine were at the bottom with cameras ready, we took out seats on the slide. The volunteer counted down and we slid down the slide, holding our hands in the air.

I knew we would land in water at the bottom, but I got completely soaked.

We got out of the water and headed to the finish line. Honestly, crossing the finish line was kind of anti-climatic after all of the obstacles, but we grabbed our medals, took a finish picture and then went to get clean, dry clothes to change into. I guess I’ll have to get another medal rack to hang my obstacle course medals on now.